Posted December 19, 2014 by Tim Stout in Miscellaneous

R.L. Burnside // Burnside On Burnside (2001)

RLBurnsideOnBurnsideToday we revisit an old classic live release from R.L. Burnside, who hailed from Mississippi, but recorded his only live record here at the Crystal Ballroom, and called it, appropriately, Burnside On Burnside (the Ballroom, of course, resides on the corner of SW 14th and Burnside).

Burnside (born in 1926 in Oxford, MS.) did not gain critical acclaim until Fat Possum released Too Bad Jim in 1994, which coincided with garnering the attention of Jon Spencer, who took Burnside on the road with him to open up shows for his band, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion.  Prior to that point, aside from the occasional European Blues Festival (isn’t it true that Europeans often appreciate American blues artists more than we do?), Burnside was relatively unknown outside of North Mississippi until the mid-to-late-nineties.

Fast forward a few years, and in the early aughts (January 21, 2001, to be precise), Burnside brought a small band along with him to Portland and played to a sold out Crystal Ballroom.  Luckily for all of us, they recorded the show, and presented the best of it (along with a couple of tracks from the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco) to us in the form of this gem of a live album, which was released October 23, 2001.

Eight of the twelve tracks on the record were written by the guitarist/vocalist, and the other four are blues standards.  All twelve are great examples of the late musicians’ skill not only as a player and a singer, but as a showman, not unlike John Lee Hooker. Burnside was 74 at the time of this recording, and even though he played while sitting in a chair, the energetic urgency with which he performed was evident to all who witnessed one of his shows in his later years (and was presumably present since he first picked up a guitar in the 30s); even the slower numbers here have an immediacy that’s hard to ignore.

Burnside died only a few years after the release of this record (2005), which makes this record as important– or more– today than it was in 2001.  To purchase a hard copy and/or a downloadable version, go here.

Here are two “teaser” tracks for your listening pleasure.

Tim Stout

Tim Stout
Co-founder of Portland Live - Tim has been promoting and covering live music for almost fifteen years and feels fortunate to have been born and raised in such a great music city.


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